AG urges feds to remove opioid question from federal hospital surveys

By Chris Dickerson | Jul 13, 2016

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is asking officials to remove questions from a federal hospital survey that he believes encourages doctors to over prescribe opioids.

Morrisey expressed his concerns in a July 7 letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about its Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey. The letter highlights three questions linking pain management with government reimbursements.

“This needs to change now, and you have the power to change it,” Morrisey wrote in the letter. “I urge you to proactively remove the pain questions and stop incentivizing opioid prescribing.”

The consumer assessment survey includes 32 questions. Morrisey takes issue with three – “During this hospital stay, did you need medicine for pain?” “How often was your pain well controlled?” “How often did the hospital staff do everything they could to help you with your pain?”

The letter cites two studies that found nearly half of respondents improperly prescribed opioid painkillers in direct response to those questions. Morrisey said removing the questions would empower physicians to practice without fear of a poor survey score jeopardizing their compensation or employment.

Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services said it would propose a rule with that goal in mind. Legislation also sits pending before Congress to prevent such questions from being considered when allocating Medicare funding to hospitals.

In 2015, West Virginia recorded nearly 700 drug overdose deaths, including nearly 600 opiate-related fatal overdoses. That’s one year after West Virginia led the nation in drug overdose deaths at a rate of 35.5 per 100,000 people.

Read the full letter here http://bit.ly/29vuGH6.

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